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Will David Cameron talk sensibly about drugs when he leaves office?

The prime minister has abandoned his previous attitude to drug policy. Does power do this to people?

By on Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Cannabis sativa, marihuana, hemp, plant

Here is a piece of news that you may have missed, and with good reason.  It’s not really news at all. The documentary sounds admirable, and its trailer has this to say, with which I heartily agree:

“The war on drugs has been raging for 40 years. Over a trillion dollars has been spent, millions of people imprisoned, and countless thousands killed. The illegal drug market is worth $330-400 billion per year, drugs are cheaper and more prevalent than ever before, and in a growing number of countries drug cartels are the major threat to national security. Yet our governments carry on regardless.”

But the article states:

“In this ground breaking film a number of past Presidents, among them Presidents Clinton and Carter, stand up to be counted, admitting they got it wrong and trying to make amends before it’s too late. We follow the Global Commission On Drugs Policy on a mission to break the political taboo, explore the controversial solutions and bravely demand a new agenda.”

Ground breaking, eh? Past presidents have for some time now admitted that the war on drugs has failed. What would be news would be if some currently serving Presidents and Prime Ministers were to say the same thing, rather than waiting for the safety of retirement to do so. But the truth is that every politician who hopes to be re-elected knows two things: first, that the war on drugs has failed; and second, that to say so would be electoral suicide.

One such is David Cameron. The Prime Minister, not very long ago, was on the side of reform. But that was before he was Prime Minister or even leader of his party. Back in 2005  he seemed to think that present policy needed an overhaul, and said:

“Politicians attempt to appeal to the lowest common denominator by posturing with tough policies and calling for crackdown after crackdown. Drugs policy has been failing for decades.”

Perhaps office has changed his mind? But when he leaves office, will he change it back again? The trouble is, by then it will be too late. We do not need retired politicians to tell us how wrong they got it. We need our current ones to act.

Mr Cameron has, some would say, shown remarkable political daring in espousing the cause of gay marriage, which does not strike most people as a naturally conservative policy. It is a pity he has not tackled the question of the drugs, which would by no means win widespread applause, and taken the sort of steps that have borne fruit in Portugal. Here is one area where he really could make a difference. But one assumes that he is too frightened of the ruling opinion that the drugs war is, if not being won, at least winnable. But twenty years from now, you can expect Dave to be doing a Clinton and Carter, telling us that he got it wrong, and how enlightenment came only in retirement.

It was once a mark of great Tory politicians to challenge the consensus: remember Peel and the Corn Laws? Or Shaftesbury and the Factory Acts? These men were Tories, and fought hard for what they believed in, against the consensus of the day. So did that other great Tory leader, Churchill. But Cameron, who seems to be no Conservative, is not much of a leader either. And so the misery caused by the unwinnable war on drugs continues.

  • Where’s the Evidence

    “The war on drugs has been raging for 40 years.”
    What evidence does he give for this contention?  The same evidence that you always give i.e. none at all?

    I suppose we are just supposed to take it on faith.

  • Kevin

    I know you have written on this before, but it is worth repeating your position on narcotics.

    Are you simply recommending liberalisation in the face of widespread use? If so, you must recognise that many things that more obviously violate God’s law are widely practised in the world today.

  • Anon

    Unfair world trade that drives down prices and makes coffee farming families destitute, results in those farmers growing (legal) coca leaf for the (illegal) cocaine market. One easy answer for Christmas shoppers in England,is to buy Fair Trade labelled coffee.

    For those who must fight their demons using the strong medicine of alcohol,heroin etc. perhaps Fr. Alexander has more answers.

  • GratefulCatholic

    I have gone right off you Father. I think the last time you spoke in support of drugs I called you silly – although it grieves me sore to admonish a Catholic Priest – well, best unsaid.

  • Charles Martel

    War on drugs? What war?  Absolute drivel.

  • Patrickhowes

    What is your obession with drugs?Legalising abortion did not get rid of abortion!Legalising guns has done nothing to stop violent crime in the USA.

  • malcolmkyle

    We can either ask the Tooth Fairy to stop people taking drugs or we can decide to regulate them properly. Prohibition is not regulation, it’s a hideous nightmare for all of us.

    Because Drug cartels will always have an endless supply of ready cash for wages, bribery and equipment, no amount of tax money, police powers, weaponry, wishful thinking or pseudo-science will make our streets safe again —only an end to prohibition can do that! How much longer are you willing to foolishly risk your own survival by continuing to ignore the obvious, historically confirmed solution?

    Debating whether a particular drug is harmless or not is missing the whole point. Is marijuana dangerous? Is Cocaine dangerous? Is Alcohol dangerous? It simply doesn’t matter if they are or not; If it’s not directly hurting you and you forbid it, then you can be sure that it WILL create unforeseen circumstances, which will have an adverse affect on all our wellbeing.

    If you support prohibition then you’ve helped trigger the worst crime wave in history.

    If you support prohibition you’ve a helped create a black market with massive incentives to hook both adults and children alike.

    If you support prohibition you’ve helped to make these dangerous substances available in schools and prisons.

    If you support prohibition you’ve helped raise gang warfare to a level not seen since the days of alcohol bootlegging.

    If you support prohibition you’ve helped create the prison-for-profit synergy with drug lords.

    If you support prohibition you’ve helped remove many important civil liberties from those citizens you falsely claim to represent.

    If you support prohibition you’ve helped put previously unknown and contaminated drugs on the streets.

    If you support prohibition you’ve helped to escalate Murder, Theft, Muggings and Burglaries.

    If you support prohibition you’ve helped to divert scarce law-enforcement resources away from protecting your fellow citizens from the ever escalating violence against their person or property.

    If you support prohibition you’ve helped overcrowd the courts and prisons, thus making it increasingly impossible to curtail the people who are hurting and terrorizing others.

    If you support prohibition you’ve helped evolve local gangs into transnational enterprises with intricate power structures that reach into every corner of society, controlling vast swaths of territory with significant social and military resources at their disposal.

  • malcolmkyle

    I agree, we just need to throw a few more trillion at this: Give the police total power and proper weapons—like Death-Rays that work on large crowds. Take away forever what’s left of everybody’s stupid rights and liberties, and then indulge ourselves in even more wishful thinking or bizarre pseudo-science.

  • malcolmkyle

    When we regulate something we do NOT automatically condone it’s use; the regulations concerning alcohol and tobacco are there to protect us from the vast increase in criminality that would otherwise exist if these substances were prohibited.

    A regulated and licensed distribution network for all mind altering substances would put responsible adult supervision in between children and premature access to drug distribution outlets (illegal street dealers). Regulated and licensed distribution would reflect and respect society’s values, thus preventing children obtaining easy access to these dangerous substances. What we need is legalized regulation. What we have now, due to prohibition, is a non-regulated black market to which everybody has access and where all the profits go to organized crime and terrorists.

    Why do you wish to continue supporting criminals and terrorists?

  • Cannabis For Autism

    The evidence is easy to find. Start with the news clip where Nixon declares drugs to be ‘Public enemy number one’ and declares war on them.

    Then look at the budgets for police departments all over the world. The amount spent on militarising the job of the police increases year on year, to combat the entrenched mentality of the drug dealers who have enough money to buy stronger front doors, expensive dangerous dogs, and automatic weapons thanks to the gift of huge easy profits given to them by prohibition.

    P.S – Look up the etymology of ‘Christ’ – you’ll find it means ‘smothered in cannabis oil’.

  • Cannabis For Autism

    Just in case anyone is reading this who loves someone with autism, cannabis may ameliorate symptoms of autism. I am only able to be here, fighting for my rights, thanks to cannabis – the sacred healing herb.

  • Peter Reynolds

    Cameron is the very worst sort of hypocrite.  He with George Osborne and Boris Johnson enjoyed notorious drug and booze-fuelled adventures at the Bullingdon Club when at Oxford. These were easily hushed up as the privileged toffs peeled a few fifties off their wad to keep people quiet.  Now he supports a policy that has criminalised over one million people in Britain and blighted their lives and careers.  Also, it’s an open secret that he got away with a suspension from Eton for cannabis when his chums were expelled.

    Then, in 2002, when he was a member of the Home Affairs committee he said it would be “disappointing if radical alternatives to the present policy on cannabis were not considered”.

    Now, he has changed his position because he is terrified of what the Daily Mail might say (and this week the reefer madness infected Independent too) and he is in the pocket of the alcohol industry. Big Booze is terrified of a cheaper and safer alternative to its poisonous products.
    Cameron’s ultimate betrayal of the truth and his own integrity came on an Al Jazeera YouTube interview last year when he told a series of blatant lies about cannabis which he knows to be untrue.

  • John

    The elite support gay marriage as a potential assistance to population control. Pot on the other hand, is of no interest to them because it doesn’t serve any of their interests. Follow George Soros and you will understand the apparent inconsistencies in government policy. They are told to take some positions and not others; if they obey they are rewarded with financial assistance and if not, their opponents get the money. We must expose these secret government deals before we can have true freedom or democracy.

  • a quiet man
  • a quiet man

    i believe that anyone who supports prohibition should be held to account for the results. the only people who benefit from the present system are criminal thugs and i do not care if they wear a suit and work for H,S,B,C  or a mask and work for a small criminal gang in dark streets . prohibition is evil and if you dont want to end it then you are the drug problem

  • GratefulCatholic

    It is not for me to lecture Father on Scripture and the Dogma of the Church, he knows better than I, and deep in his heart he will know that Pride and trying to be more clever than the civil authorities is what has brought him to this.

  • flux5000

    All I have to say to you is this, Genesis 1:29.

    This is not a war on drugs, it is a war on some people who take certain drugs.

  • honeynutcornflakes

     you are kidding right? or is that peter hitchens under that pseudonym?